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Russian experiment hopes to reduce cow anxiety with VR headset

VR used in experiment on cows in Russia to see if it reduces anxiety

Technology has its upsides, especially for one herd of cows in Russia.

A statement released by Moscow‘s Ministry of Agriculture and Food on Monday cited research that shows a strong link between a cow’s emotional experience and how much milk it can yield.

To combat cow anxiety and thus increase milk production, milknews.ru, a news website for the Russian dairy industry, tested out virtual reality systems built specifically for the cows’ heads.

The animals at the RusMoloko farm were shown a “unique summer field simulation program,” with initial tests showing that there was a boost in “overall emotional mood of the herd” and a decrease in anxiety among the farm animals.

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The statement reads that the ministry hopes the technology will “solve pressing problems in milk production.”

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So far, it’s unknown if the goggles will have an impact on milk production, and further study will be needed.

The statement adds that across the globe, many efforts are being made to help cows feel calmer.

In America, rotating brushes are installed in cow stalls as their personal masseuses, while in some Moscow suburbs, classical music is played on a speaker.

This certainly isn’t the first example showing that pampering cows produces a better product.

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Virtual reality medical training

A Missouri dairy farm, Shatto Milk, has been doing this for years. Instead of having their cows sleep in dirt, they put sand down to maximize comfort levels.

Fans keep the cows cool, while a little background music keeps them occupied.

“The more comfortable they are, the more milk they’re going to give,” owner Leroy Shatto said. “There’s just no question about it.”

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The farmer spends over US$2,000 a day on feed, plus other operating expenses, but he’s seen a big return, too.

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Since moving his cows into more comfortable living conditions, he estimates his herd started producing 15 to 20 per cent more milk — an extra four litres every day per cow.

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“We work a bit better with a bit in the background, too,” he said. “I think that does make a difference.”

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca